PHOTOGRAPHY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR YOUR FREE TIME
Sunset - "The Watchman" This is the most iconic photo location in Zion. It is located at "Canyon Junction" inside the park. This is an area that is well worth photographing, however we do not visit this location during our sunset photography tours. The location is often mobbed with a line of photographers on the bridge. The photo is iconic for a reason though. Here is a map to Canyon Junction to photograph the "Watchman Sunset".
Mid-Day - The best option for mid-day photography is found in "The Narrows". There are two ways to hike the narrows. The "Bottom Up" approach, and from the "Top Down". Most photographers will pursue the "Bottom Up" hike, as it is a only day hike and offers offers photographers the most photogenic portions of the canyon. The "Top Down" requires a permit, a shuttle or two vehicles and a 16 mile hike through the canyon. For information on logistics for both of these approaches click here.
Canyon Overlook - An easy 2 mile round trip hike that packs a lot of bang for the buck. Easy hiking with an amazing view.
The "East Side" - The east side is considered the area past the one mile long tunnel which heads towards Bryce National Park. There are many pull-offs that offer opportunities for nice abstract images as well as the possibility of seeing big horn sheep.
Observation Point - This is a strenuous hike with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Mid-day light exposes the canyon quite nicely. Of course it's pretty harsh light, but it details the form of the canyon well.
The Subway - The Subway is one of the most iconic photography locations for those looking to walk away with some of the best images of Zion. With that being said there are several things to consider. One of the biggest considerations is that this is a STRENUOUS adventure, far more physical than "The Narrows".
The Subway during a stretch of cold days during the winter.
NOTE: We receive quite a few requests to guide and instruct in this canyon. Unfortunately due to park regulations, no commercial outfits are permitted to do either of these.
Logistics - This canyon requires obtaining a permit through Zion National Park. Click here to view details on how to obtain a permit.
Top down vs Bottom up - There are two different ways to approach doing this canyon. Starting from the top and going down canyon requires ropes, canyoneering experience and several mandatory swims through cold water. A drysuit or wetsuit are recommended/necessary, as well as dry bags to protect camera gear. Pursuing this approach does offer more photo opportunities. The more common approach which offers the "iconic" photos of this area is approached starting from the bottom and hiking up canyon. This approach is a hike. No technical experience needed. With that being said, this is still a rather strenuous hike. Round trip the hike is 9 miles round trip, including a steep decent and exit out of the canyon as well as hiking up and down large boulders through a small stream (MUCH less water than The Narrows). The first 4 miles of hiking is impressively non-photogenic for Zion standards, so it is recommended to push on through the hike until you get to "the goods".
Best time for light - The best light for the classic Subway photos happens mid to late morning. It is recommended to start your hike at or a little before sunrise in order to have ample time to photograph with plenty of time to work with good light. During this time, light is good for each of the following areas: The Crack, Archangel Falls and The Subway.
Recommended gear - If you are doing the top-down version of this canyon, be sure to call Zion Adventure Company at 435-772-1001 to find out whether you should rent a dry suit, or a wetsuit and make a reservation. If you are doing the bottom up version of the hike you will want at least neoprene socks and canyoneering footwear. Zion Adventure Company also rents this gear. During colder months you may want dry pants as well. If you are unsure on whether you should reserve dry pants, give the outfitters at Zion Adventure Company a call and they can assist you.
Camera Gear - This is a list of gear I would recommend for photographing The Subway.
- Wide angle lens
- Mid-range lens
- Polarizing filter